I realize that by using the word ‘jazz’ in the title of this post I’ve probably caused at least half of my little audience to quickly move onto another blog (or to compulsively check their email) rather than explore today’s post. But hear me out; as a jazz musician myself I’m always eager to convert people who think they don’t like the music to enthused followers of the great American musical art form. Generally, I’ve observed that most people who profess to dislike jazz haven’t really listened to it. They’ve either heard some ‘free’ jazz–which is enough to send anyone, even most jazz players, running for the hills–or they’ve heard soft, gushy Kenny G.-style music which is sometimes mistakenly labeled as jazz. This too long pre-amble to today’s post is my way of saying please play the above video which is a television pilot called ‘After Hours’, made in 1961. Even if you don’t have time to watch it (it runs 27 minutes which is longer than most things I post) leave it on in the background. I’m quite sure it will do the trick and at least make the non-fan into a jazz-curious one.
‘After Hours’ features a pile of jazz legends–Coleman Hawkins (sax), Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Cozy Cole (drums), Milt Hinton (bass), Johnny Guarnieri (piano) and Barry Galbraith (guitar)–in what appears to be an unsold television pilot shot in 1961. William B. Williams, longtime WNEW disc jockey, narrates this tale of a group of jazz guys getting together and jamming in the wee small hours, playing among other standards ‘Lover Man’, Just You Just Me’, ‘Taking A Chance On Love’ and a straight up improv blues. The director, Shephard Traube, was a noted Broadway theater director whose biggest credit was a play called ‘Angel Street’, which ran for a whooping 1,295 performances in the 1941-43 seasons. I posit this as a pilot since his IMDB only lists it as a ‘short’, though William B. Williams invites the viewers back ‘next week’ for more jazz. The show climaxes with a nifty dance routine performed by two men who are supposed to be the doorman and waiter but who are, in fact, professional dancers named Albert Minns and Leon James. I don’t know why the pilot didn’t sell–perhaps by 1961 there were already too many people who had turned against jazz. My longtime friend and excellent drummer Paul Kreibich once said that he was going to have a t-shirt made that said “Jazz Hates You Too” on the front. I wonder if he ever got around to it. (I’d love to hand them out as gifts if he did.) One last thing; before you place yourself firmly in the camp of jazz-haters remember that Donald Trump has publicly said how much he hates jazz. Is that really the company you want to keep?